Do Islanders like it, not know about it or just not care?


A nearly-nonexistent turnout at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Thursday night for a public hearing on a new 12,200-square-foot solar canopy over the parking lot at Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven had some commissioners scratching their heads.


“There certainly doesn’t seem to be an outcry of public concern about this project, but I’m curious whether people are really paying a lot of attention,” said commissioner Linda Sibley.


Plans for the new $1.1 million, 210-kilowatt project were unveiled earlier in the week before the commission.


The applicants for the project are Cronig’s owner Steve Bernier, Vineyard Power director Richard Andre and South Mountain Co. president John Abrams.


The project will be built in two phases, with two solar canopies planned for above the Healthy Additions parking lot this spring, and another over the Cronig’s lot in the fall. Vineyard Power is leasing the land from Mr. Bernier to build the array, which will supply a quarter of the energy needs for the grocery store.


The commission has received no correspondence about the project, and at the hearing Thursday night only one person attended to speak about it. Mrs. Sibley did not disguise her surprise.


“I think they’re attractive but they’re definitely not something we’re used to here on the Island,” she said. “Given how intensely people reacted to the roundabout as being a foreign object in our midst, I don’t know.”


Bill Straw of West Tisbury, the lone person to comment from the public, suggested the look of the solar canopy was better suited to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


But commissioner Bill Bennett dismissed any concerns that the public may have been uninformed about the project.


“It seems to me that we abided by all the public notice meeting laws and there was a big article in the paper, so if people were really opposed to this thing they would have come tonight,” he said.


“This has been publicized and to wait around for opposition? To me that seems a little rough,” said Mr. Abrams. “We need to be ripping up pavement very soon.”


Mr. Bernier said he thought the small turnout was an indication of community support.


“I’ve had over 100 people stop me and thank us for doing something about this and getting the ball moving forward,” he said. “Yes, it looks different but we need these in our future and we need to get going on our fossil fuel dependency issues and this is a wonderful step in that direction.”


The commission closed the public hearing, but will keep the written record open until noon on Monday; public comment may be sent until then. On Monday night the commission’s land use planning subcommittee will meet to discuss the project. The full commission is expected to vote on the plan next Thursday.